Leader

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Morris County does convict arsonists!

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    Meleski has three prior arson convictions from the 1980s in Woodbridge, along with convictions for burglary and calling in false fire alarms. He has served state prison sentences and been required to undergo psychiatric counseling.
    It is time for Mr. Meleski to be removed from our streets....he has a serious problem.

    Meleski normally would face 10 years in prison on the two arson convictions, but punishment on at least one count could be doubled if the judge deems him a persistent offender.
    Keeps us posted on the outcome George.

    Leave a comment:


  • NJFM913
    replied
    Congrats!

    George,
    Congrats to you and your office! This shows what hard work and good investigations can lead to.

    Another one bites the dust!!

    Leave a comment:


  • Bones42
    replied
    Oh well.

    Leave a comment:


  • GeorgeWendtCFI
    replied
    Ex-fireman set blazes at retreat, jury finds
    'Serial arsonist' guilty of Chester Twp. fires
    By Peggy Wright, Daily Record

    A former volunteer firefighter who claimed a religious calling to life as a hermit was found guilty Thursday of setting fires in 2001 at two unoccupied cabins at the Bethlehem Hermitage on Pleasant Hill Road in Chester Township.

    A Morris County jury of six men and six women deliberated for four hours over two days before convicting Richard Meleski Jr. of two counts of arson on April 9, 2001. Jurors acquitted the 42-year-old former Iselin firefighter of more serious counts of aggravated arson, which required proof that his purpose in lighting the blazes was to burn down the bungalows.

    Instead, jurors convicted him of starting fires that recklessly placed the cabins in jeopardy.

    Meleski has three prior arson convictions from the 1980s in Woodbridge, along with convictions for burglary and calling in false fire alarms. He has served state prison sentences and been required to undergo psychiatric counseling.

    As a result of his criminal history, Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Charles O'Connell said he expects to ask Superior Court Judge John J. Harper on July 11 to sentence Meleski as a repeat offender.

    Meleski normally would face 10 years in prison on the two arson convictions, but punishment on at least one count could be doubled if the judge deems him a persistent offender.

    "I would characterize him as a serial arsonist," O'Connell said after the verdict.

    The trial involved the unusual appearance of a Roman Catholic priest as a witness, as well as testimony by Meleski that he manufactured an admission to the arson out of bits and pieces he overheard from police, because he believed that the Rev. Eugene Romano, the director of the hermitage, wanted him to confess.

    Romano -- the founder of a small order of religious hermits who follow vows of chastity, poverty and silence while they pray for humanity in individual cabins on the 19-acre hermitage tract -- agreed in November 2000 to let Meleski live temporarily at the facility while he pondered whether he was fit for a hermit's life.

    The priest described Meleski as an excellent handyman but said he was not working out as a religious candidate, as he could not master necessary daily prayers and the rosary. Authorities also said they found evidence of Meleski's insincerity in his cabin: material goods such as a television set, a police scanner, a radio and alcohol.

    Romano testified that Meleski told him that he set the fires at the hermitage. The admission was not in the context of a confession from a penitent to a priest, and occurred just before Meleski spoke to detectives and described setting the fires.

    At trial, Meleski said he confessed to a crime he did not commit because Romano told him, "Just tell them (police) what they want to hear."

    Meleski said he believed that the priest would let him return to the hermitage if he took responsibility for the blazes.

    Meleski had been drinking wine and stewing over a soured romance on April 9, 2001, his birthday, and started one fire at a cabin by lighting curtains. A short while later, he started a fire at the front door of a second cabin. Authorities said the damage to the two bungalows totaled $52,500.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bones42
    replied
    Oh yeah. The guy is a former volunteer fire fighter.
    And neither of these articles mentions that! I am shocked.

    Good job to the jury.

    Leave a comment:


  • GeorgeWendtCFI
    replied
    Would-be hermit convicted of arson

    Jury rejects defense that confession was fabricated
    Friday, June 06, 2003

    BY MARGARET McHUGH
    Star-Ledger Staff

    A man who tried to live the life of a hermit was convicted yesterday of burning down two cottages at a Roman Catholic hermitage in Chester Township.

    After deliberating about four hours over two days, a Morris County jury rejected Richard Meleski Jr.'s testimony that he fabricated his confession to the April 9, 2001, arson in the hopes that by doing so the Bethlehem Hermitage founder would let him stay there.

    Meleski, 42, was convicted of two counts of arson, but the jury acquitted him of the more serious charges of aggravated arson. Rather than finding that he set the fires for the purpose of destroying the cottages, the jury simply found his behavior was reckless, Assistant Morris County Prosecutor Charles O'Connell explained.

    "He's a bit of a sympathetic character," O'Connell said of Meleski, a soft-spoken man with a speech impediment.

    What the jury didn't know was that Meleski was charged with setting numerous fires -- including one at a Woodbridge school -- in the 1980s, according to court records. Through plea deals, he was convicted of three arsons.

    "I would characterize him as a serial arsonist," O'Connell said.

    The assistant prosecutor intends to ask Superior Court Judge John Harper to give Meleski an extended prison term for being a persistent offender when he is sentenced July 11. Without any enhanced sentencing, Meleski faces up to five years in prison for each of the arson convictions.

    In his taped confession to police, Meleski provided details of how the fires were set and his attempt to create an alibi. He had been drinking that day, his 40th birthday, and said he set the fires to retaliate against the people he blamed for the hardship in his life.

    He arrived at the hermitage in Nov. 25, 2000, a month into a New York-to-Virginia hike of the Appalachian Trail. He called the Rev. Eugene Romano from the Delaware Water Gap, saying he wanted a vocation.

    While Meleski worked hard tending to the 19-acre grounds, he couldn't adapt to the hermit life. Romano discovered Meleski didn't know the rosary or the daily prayers, and after his arrest, police discovered a television, a police scanner and empty wine bottles in his cottage -- all violations of a life devoted to solitary prayers and chores, and silence.

    Romano founded the hermitage in 1975 and he and four other hermits -- Roman Catholic nuns -- live in individual cottages. They rise at 4 a.m. each day, and except for one meal on Sunday, they always eat alone. Mostly, they pray alone, although they attend Mass together each morning and on Saturday evenings. They have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

    Leave a comment:


  • NJFFSA16
    replied
    Two "thumbs up"...and a salute to your agency...and all involved in this conviction George!

    Leave a comment:


  • GeorgeWendtCFI
    started a topic Morris County does convict arsonists!

    Morris County does convict arsonists!

    Posted 03:07 PM from the Daily Record newsroom
    Guilty verdict in Chester Township hermitage arson
    By Peggy Wright, Daily Record

    A 42-year-old man with prior convictions for setting blazes and calling in false alarms in Middlesex County was found guilty Thursday of setting fire to two cabins at the Bethlehem Hermitage in Chester Township.

    A Morris County jury found Richard Meleski Jr. guilty of two counts of arson on April 9, 2001, but acquitted him of the more serious charge of aggravated arson, which required proof that he specifically intended to burn down the structures. The jury instead found that he started the fires that recklessly put the buildings in jeopardy.

    Because of his previous convictions, Meleski faces sentencing on July 11 as a persistent offender and could receive a punishment of up to 15 years in state prison.

    Although Meleski gave police a confession, he claimed at trial that he falsely took the blame for the fires because he believed the hermitage director, Rev. Eugene Romano, wanted him to confess and would allow him to resume living at the religious center if he admitted to the fires
    ______________________________________________

    Oh yeah. The guy is a former volunteer fire fighter.

300x600 Ad Unit (In-View)

Collapse

Upper 300x250

Collapse

Taboola

Collapse

Leader

Collapse
Working...
X